Of course I don't own Avatar! So why do I have to keep saying it?

Everybody ready for Kairi's secret? Any last guesses as to what it is? I can already tell you they're all wrong. You people will never see this one coming. Sifu Blind Bandit said she wanted to see inside Kairi's head more. Well, here's your chance.

Hang on to your seats, because this one will blow you away!

Chapter 24: The Real Kairi

It was morning. Kairi was standing on a bridge overlooking one of the canals of the city. Her eyes were on the ocean, but her mind was somewhere else entirely.

Mushi came across the bridge and stopped beside her, leaning on the railing.

"What are you thinking about?" he asked.

"Someone I know," she said, still staring at the water. "Someone still in the Fire Nation."

"Your parents?"

"No." For a long moment she was silent. And then, so quiet Mushi wasn't even sure at first if she'd even said it at all, "It's Azula."

She winced a bit, waiting for Mushi's reaction. It wasn't at all what she had expected. He didn't stare at her like she was crazy, or start naming all the reasons why it was wrong. In fact, he didn't react at all. He just nodded and kept looking at the sea.

"She's not a monster like they say," Kairi said, feeling an urge to explain. "She's not really even crazy. She's just... broken." Mushi nodded again, and she kept going.

"I saw her when I was seven. Some kids were talking about her and calling her names. Uncle Iroh was visiting then, and I told him something they'd said. He got sort of sad and said that I shouldn't judge someone until I knew them. He took me to see her. She was sitting in her cell, staring into space. Her hair was all tangled and messy, and her clothes were worn-out and old. The guards said she never talks or makes noise or anything, just sits there. It was really sad. She wasn't mean or witty or any of the other things she used to be. She was just sort of hollow inside. Like a shadow of who she used to be.

"After that I used to go and see her sometimes," she continued. "Nobody ever did that except Aunt Ty Lee and Uncle Iroh, and I don't think she likes it much when he's there. Mom and Dad gave up years ago because she always got mad at him and never responded to her. I used to sit and talk to her about things. I showed her my firebending too, and my swords. She never said anything, but I know she was listening. You could look in her eyes and tell she was glad to have somebody there with her. It's gotta be lonely to be there alone for twenty years with nothing to do."

"Does your dad know?" Mushi asked. Kairi shook her head.

"Nobody knows except her guards and Uncle Iroh. And Aunt Ty Lee, I think. She never said anything, but I'm pretty sure she knew." She was quiet a moment. "She's so far gone. But part of her's still in there somewhere. Sometimes I can see it in her eyes. That's why I kept going back. I used to think that maybe, if I went enough, maybe someday she would come back, at least a little. Maybe she would even start to talk again." Her voice fell. "She deserves better than that."

"So, why do you get all defensive when people say you're like her?" Mushi asked.

"Because they mean the old Azula." Kairi said. She fell silent as someone walked across the bridge. Once they reached the other side, she continued. "But it wasn't her fault that she was like that. She was always trying to be perfect for Grandpa Ozai. Nobody was there to love her and tell her she didn't have to be perfect. He's the one who made her like that. It's his fault, not hers. She couldn't have been such an amazing person. People should feel sorry for her, not be afraid of her." Quietly, she added, "I know I do."

For a long moment neither of them said anything. Then Mushi shook his head and said,

"Kairi, you never cease to amaze me. The way you see things..." He shook his head again. After a moment, he said, "You know, Roku's going to find out eventually."

"I know," Kairi said softly. She looked down.

"It means a lot to you, doesn't it?" Mushi asked. "What he thinks."

"I've always wanted to make him proud," Kairi said quietly. "Be like him. He's so worried about not being able to bend that he doesn't notice, but people look at him differently. They respect him." She swallowed. "He's going to be someone amazing someday. He already is. But he's my brother too, you know? I just want to make him proud."

"I felt the same way about my dad," Mushi said. "I wanted him to be proud of me. I spent my whole life working towards that. For a while I had it. And then I had to make a choice. My dad or what I knew was right. I chose you guys. And now I think I made the right choice." He looked over at Kairi, who still wouldn't look at him.

"If you have to make a choice like that," he said, "always choose your heart. You'll never forgive yourself otherwise."

"You think I should go back to the Fire Nation," Kairi said quietly.

"I think there's someone there who needs you," Mushi said. "You have a chance to help someone that no one else is going to. I can tell you right now that Roku isn't going to understand that. But what you do is your choice, not his." Kairi thought a moment, and then nodded.

"You know," she said finally, "you didn't react the way I thought you would. You didn't even seem surprised."

"See, I met this girl once," Mushi said, looking out at the sea. Kairi looked over at him, listening. "The first time I met her she surprised me with her boldness, then with her fighting skills, and then with her sense of honor. Since then she's surprised me more times than I can count. But there's one thing I have learned about her. She's brave to the core. And she's got the most incredible sense of honor of anyone I know."

"Thanks," Kairi said. There was a tiny hint of a smile on her face.

"Anytime," Mushi said. He took a few steps and then turned back. "Breakfast will be soon."

"I'll be there," Kairi said. Mushi nodded and walked off. Kairi stayed where she was for a moment, staring out at the sea. She had a big choice to make. Roku or Azula? To anyone else it would have been no choice at all, but after seeing her aunt in the condition she was in...

Finally she pushed herself off the wall and nodded. Her mouth was set in a determined line.

"Okay," she said. "I know what I have to do."

How many of you saw that coming? Exactly. Interesting twist, huh? You like it? Now before you go judging Kairi like I know most of you just did, read back over her arguements one more time. If that doesn't convince you, go watch the end of "Sozin's Comet" and tell me you don't feel at least a little bit sorry for Azula. Now, I have to admit that the first time I watched it I was thinking, "She totally deserves it." But the second time it really got to me. All of you that don't feel anything are completely heartless.

If you want to comment (or argue! I enjoy arguing!) feel free to write me a review anytime.